Glasgow Writers: Brian Hamill

brian hamill

R.I.P. Sadly Brian Hamill died in May, 2021 – only 39 years of age – so accomplished and so much to live for. In October, 2019, Brian set up The Common Breath ‘The aim was to provide an exciting new stream of fiction for readers to enjoy, publishing both classic and contemporary work, and to build a literary community through artist interviews and reader engagement.’ At the time of his death The Common Breath was going from strength to strength. (My sincere condolences to Brian’s family and his many friends – I count myself among them.).

Laura Waddell writing about Brian in The Scotsman: ‘ Glasgow Publisher Brian Hamill was a kind and spirited soul…’

I absolutely love this story –A Special Report by Brian Hamill, September 2013 – A new wee short piece written in Scots

Mr Summers by Brian Hamill – The Edinburgh Review

brian hamill

At the moment Brian Hamill’s world is full of promise. The young writer, originally from Airdrie and now living in Glasgow, was one of the winners of the 2012 Scottish Book Trust annual New Writers Awards. Currently he  is waiting to be allocated a professional mentor as part of the prize.

He’s also excited about how the collection of short stories he’s been working on is shaping up and hopes to finish this soon. In addition, Brian has written a novella called The Revellers, illustrated by his talented friend Steven Learmonth. Brian has had stories published in various publications, including New Writing Scotland 30, Shorelines and the New Voices Press Anthology 2012.  His work was also included in the anthology Tip Tap Flat, which was published in 2012 and edited by  Louise Welsh.

Brian started writing in 2007, when after gaining a degree in English Literature from the University of Strathclyde, he signed up for Creative Writing evening classes at the University of Glasgow DACE. He has continued these classes every year since, and firmly believes that any successes he has had so far have grown from the collective wisdom and efforts of that class. When I attended the class I certainly benefited from Brian’s input.

Brian is generous in his praise of many writers and has drawn inspiration from the great Scottish modern writers such as  Tom Leonard and James Kelman, describing their work as ‘wonderful’. Other contemporary writers he admires include Jackie Kay and Bernard MacLaverty.

We had a great natter about writers and writing over a cappuccino in Tinderbox on Byres Road, when Brian told me that his output as a writer is fairly slow as he doesn’t get as much time to write as he would like. However, he is never short of ideas and can always find ‘meaningful things to write about’. He is a firm believer that real life is more interesting than fantasy and so his material comes from life, from the people he knows and the conversations he has, or overhears.

Much of Brian’s work is written in his own attempt to represent the Scots language phonetically. This is a style which comes naturally to him and he explained how he  ‘wants his narrator to be part of the world that his characters inhabit.’

An avid reader, he has a particular love of short stories, including a lot of older collections. Among his favourite authors are Tobias Wolff, Albert Camus, Raymond Carver, Agnes Owens, James Kelman, John Cheever, and, one of my own favourites, Katherine Mansfield. He is quick to point out that his appreciation of many of these writers was gained through works studied at his writing class.

Now he is keen to work with his new mentor via the Scottish Book Trust’s scheme. I can imagine that whoever it is will appreciate Brian’s enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge – there’s every chance they will find the partnership of mutual benefit.  (Little update: Brian was happy to have Alan Warner assigned as his mentor).

Extract from Brian Hamill’s writing


He stumbled and tripped on a gorse bush, then grinned in the darkness. He’d worn his oldest overcoat and a bunnet and had the half-bottle hangin out the front pocket. If anybody seen him they’d think he was just some old homeless looking for shelter tae skull his drink. But they wouldn’t know that he?d a kitchen knife concealed on the inside, so once he saw something happening he?d be able to keep the bastard in line till the polis got there.

The rain had made the hat damp and it sat heavily over his ears. The backs of the flats were close enough that he could see into the rooms, the bedrooms and bathrooms of the young folk, and one or two of them moving around inside. But he was sure he was far enough away that no-one could pick him out, as long as he settled down and didn’t make any sudden movements. He unscrewed the bottle and took a sip, then found a fairly dry spot at the foot of a big oak tree and planted his back against it. The branches swayed up above, there must have been a wind passing up there, but Raeburn was comfortable, crouched against the trunk, watching and waiting. He’d take another sip in a wee while.

Time passed. Raeburn thought that it wasn’t too bad, being out in the elements at night. The air was bracing. There was one main path into the student halls from this direction, and he’d positioned himself cleverly so he could see it up until it got quite close to the residence, then he’d have to turn the other way to watch any entrances or exits. This meant he’d be looking over his shoulder, which, with the dark coat and hat on and him crouched over, must have made him impossible to see. A boulder, or a bush, that’s what he’d look like from away over there. He laughed to himself. A few nights of this and he’d catch the fucker for sure.

Brian Hamill, 2013.

I wrote a review of .Brian’s story  The Snib.

Pat Byrne, February, 2013

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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